The first turf was cut today (Tuesday March 26th) at Newton as the Newton Marina development gets under way.

Minister for public finance and digital economy Kate Forbes joined representatives from Stornoway Port Authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and contractors RJ McLeod Contractors Ltd at a turf-cutting ceremony where the new facility will be built.

RJ McLeod has won the £5 million contract for the marina, the anchor project in the 20-year master plan for the harbour. The project has attracted £3.5 million funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise towards development, together with a further £2.75 million from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar through the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund.

The upgraded marina will have 70 new berths for leisure craft, a marine engineering workshop and much-needed facilities for local and visiting sailors. The aim is to tackle a shortage of yacht berths and amenities which is constraining potential growth in marine tourism.

As part of the master plan, SPA also aims to create a deep-water port which is crucial to accelerate local growth in the burgeoning cruise business, by providing improved facilities for larger ships that cannot currently berth alongside.

Alex Macleod, Chief Executive of Stornoway Port Authority, said: "The awarding of this contract represents a significant milestone in our plans to develop a new marina and for the entire Master Plan. Stornoway needs these facilities to maintain and enhance its share of the growing leisure sector. It will be a significant asset for the port, the island community and our visitors and bring considerable economic benefits to the area."

RJ McLeod site agent Kevin Smith said: "The Newton Marina works are a milestone project for the Port Authority and are of great importance to Stornoway and the Island as a whole.  RJ McLeod are pleased to be able to play our part in this project and help to create work opportunities during the construction phase as well as leave a high-quality marina which locals and visitors will enjoy using for many years to come."

Public finance minister Kate Forbes said: "It's fantastic to see the creation of the new marina at Newton take a step forward today. Communities in Lewis and further afield already benefit from marine tourism, and this new development will unlock further potential for businesses, jobs and prosperity.

Today's turf-cutting ceremony was also attended by Stornoway Sailing Club chairman Toby Marshall, who said: "The new marina will be an extremely welcome development for the sailing community. The port authority must be commended for building these improved facilities as part of its master plan, which will bring great benefits to local groups and also visitors in the fast-growing leisure sailing sector.

Work on and around Goat Island is set to create new facilities including an engineering workshop, enhanced slipway, shoreside facilities for sailors and boat storage.

Dingwall-based contractor RJ Macleod Ltd have established their site office on Goat Island. The work is expected to be complete by the end of the year and deliveries of aggregate and other materials are set to start next Monday (April 1st).

The contractors say they plan to keep the community fully informed as the development progresses and welcome enquiries in person at the site office or by phone to site agents Kevin Smith and Craig Hagan, or to the site foreman, Barry MacPhail.

Regular bulletins will also be posted on the Newton Ward Community Association’s Facebook page

The picture shows Finance minister Kate Forbes starting the turf cutting for the Newton Marina with (left to right) HIE board member Angus Campbell, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader Roddie Mackay, Izzy Marshall and Charlie MacLeod from Stornoway Sailing Club, ex-port authority chairman and one-time Stornoway Provost Sandy Matheson, Donald Crichton, chair of the Comhairle's Sustainable Development Committee;Stornoway Port Authority Chairman Murdo Murray and Kevin Smith and Barry MacPhail from RJ McLeod